Infinidat Blog

Five Ways to Evaluate Storage Technology for Delivering Your Mission

Federal agencies need to leverage technologies, including enterprise storage solutions, to deliver their program’s mission. Their technology investments are tied inextricably to the direct impact on both agency mission outcomes and improving the ability to provide better digital experiences for the American people. Technology is a success-enabler for the government.

At the same time, they must safeguard the security and privacy of the data with which they are entrusted as the lifeblood of their government services, collaboration, and intelligence. The enterprise storage platforms that underpin the data can become huge points of vulnerability and targets for cyberattacks, if proper attention is not given to the enterprise storage infrastructure as an expanding pillar of IT modernization. The mission of each agency and department must be protected.

This balancing act of mission and cybersecurity has created an environment for federal IT buyers and influencers to understand and excel at evaluating how a technological solution – whether a primary storage array with cyber detection, or a purpose-built backup appliance with near-instantaneous rapid recovery of data, or advanced cyber resilience capabilities – improves mission delivery and protects the data.

The 2023 National Cybersecurity Strategy (March 2023) states, “The American people must have confidence in the availability and resilience of the infrastructure and the essential services it provides.” An essential part of this confidence-building is the modernizing of the data infrastructure. Drawing upon the private sector’s technical expertise and capabilities is a core dimension of the 2023 U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Cyber Strategy to build more cyber resilience in the U.S. federal government. Resilience is to mission delivery what regulations are to consumer safety. It needs to be worked out in collaboration with technology partners.

Mission-driven Technology

Distinguishing between mission-driven technology and simply “technology” for the sake of technology is the new skill in demand in government circles. Alongside it is the acumen to assess innovations in cybersecurity and cyber resilience for government IT infrastructure – two highly correlated areas that merge as part of a unified strategy to anticipate, respond to and rebuff cyberattacks.

We’ve seen U.S. government agencies and departments undertake and advance their transformations as a result of the Technology Modernization Fund. The fact is that they are continually working on modernizing IT infrastructure, reducing technical complexity, and improving the end user’s experience. And more of them are being recognized for it.

For example, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management was recognized at the 2023 Federal Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council meeting on Federal Tech Day 2023 as “Best Utilization of Data” with “Cloud-based Data Visualization and Dashboards.” Data is being used to make better decisions, and data analytics is being utilized to continuously modernize technology and improve digital services.

With data at the core of government services, collaboration, and intelligence, the storing of all this data must be elevated into a productive discussion about the future of the federal government’s ability to match the right storage capacity, performance, and cost to the continual growth in data.

Five Ways to Evaluate Storage

[1] Understand the capabilities and limitations of the infrastructure underneath the data.

The enterprise storage infrastructure that runs your applications and workloads can interrupt or slow down your digital services if you don’t know what you have. You should look at the level of performance and latency of your agency’s storage arrays. Why aren’t you using the lowest latency available in the market? You should see at what level the availability of your infrastructure is guaranteed. Why are you settling for less than 100% availability guaranteed? Availability underpins your mission delivery.

[2] Map out both technical value and business value (the business of government).

When you’re trying to figure out the technical value, you should look at things like triple redundancy architecture vs dual redundancy architecture; flexibility between hybrid vs all-flash storage capabilities for workloads and applications; and ease of administration vs. complexity to manage. For the business value, you zero in on the cost of your storage infrastructure. Can you save money by consolidating storage arrays? Can you migrate to a hybrid, on-prem/off-prem cloud model that allows your agency or department to only pay for the storage you use? Are you currently paying for unused storage capacity?  Can you show the government CFOs an ROI on your storage of 11 months or less? With all your IT projects, can you find ways to significantly reduce the IT operational resources spent managing your storage infrastructure? Value uplifts your mission delivery.

[3] Question your past assumptions and assess risk with an open mind.

This may be a tough one, but it’s important. You may assume that a government agency cannot have high performance and high reliability with ease of use at a lower cost. You may be holding a belief from years ago that “there is always a trade-off.” Yet, that is no longer true. Today, you don’t have to make tradeoffs. You can get high performance, high availability, and lower costs with simplified storage that also is cyber resilient. It’s a new way of thinking that has already been proven in real-world deployments. Setting aside old assumptions allows for innovation in the approach to mission delivery.

[4] The security of primary storage and secondary storage arrays is an integral part of the equation.

It’s common to think of backup as the only default measure you need for having a layer of cyber security for your storage. But the cyber threat landscape has changed so significantly in recent years that not only does secondary storage need to be secured, but you also need to ensure the security of primary storage. One way of doing that is by upgrading to primary storage arrays that have cyber storage resilience and recovery built into them. A key capability to watch for is cyber detection that is integrated into primary storage. And when it comes to secondary storage, it’s important to have a trusted set of cyber resilient capabilities, such as immutable snapshots, logical air-gapping, and forensic environments in addition to the traditional safety net provided by standard backup datasets. As security is tightened, points of potential vulnerability are nullified. Cyber resilience should be an essential part of every agency’s or department’s cybersecurity strategy. This is critical for mission delivery.

[5] The 3 A’s in a hybrid cloud storage deployment with AI, automation, and availability.

Implementing a hybrid cloud approach for government makes more sense than going all into the public cloud. A private cloud allows an agency, or a department, to maintain control and lower costs, while automating the enterprise storage infrastructure and delivering on the need for cyber storage resilience and recovery. You can drive down storage costs with a private cloud implementation and avoid the hidden costs of transporting data back and forth from the public cloud.

Availability is also always higher in a private cloud than the public cloud. With a hybrid approach, a storage array in the cloud can be seen and managed as if it’s seamlessly part of the private cloud.  So, you can get the best of both the private cloud and the public cloud, simultaneously. Last, but not least, integrating autonomous automation with AI-powered capabilities allows you to take the modernization of your enterprise storage to the next level. Only one or two full-time storage administrators are needed to manage storage. Ultimately, the hybrid cloud approach is a more balanced, viable solution to support mission delivery for the long term.

As we head into 2024, government agencies and departments have big questions to answer about their enterprise storage. With the fact that collaboration and data-sharing across agencies and departments are increasing, the best practices for utilizing enterprise storage to optimize this inter-agency and inter-departmental information access are evolving.

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About Troy Fortune

Troy Fortune is the President of Infinidat Federal, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Infinidat, focused on the U.S. federal government market. Fortune has been architecting and building high-performing federal and commercial sales teams in the enterprise storage field for more than three decades. Before joining Infinidat Federal, Fortune held the position of VP and GM for immixGroup, which is the Public Sector business unit of Arrow Electronics. In this role, Fortune was responsible for the overall sales and go-to-market strategy for the federal, state, and local markets.